Friday, June 23, 2017

I Pandhandled in Roanoke and Made This Much Money...

Real World Panhandling - Social Experiment 

I took to the streets myself to see how panhandling is done, how people reacted to panhandlers begging for cash and how much money I would make in three different locations on a Sunday afternoon in late April.

So, with the help of some friends, I dressed up in some normal looking clothes that I haven't worn in a while, made a very simple sign that stated "Please Help, God Bless!" and picked three locations, one in Downtown Roanoke, one at the corner of Peter's Creek and 460 and the other at the popular stop sign at Valley View Mall.

I went to each area for an hours time just to see if  I would make anything.

Downtown Roanoke 

Standing over next to the entrance of the market building, I walked over, sat down on the sidewalk and held my sign in my lap. It was a bit chilly but I had a sweatshirt that kept me pretty warm for the most part.

For the first several minutes people walked by and mostly ignored me. After about 10 minutes or so, I started to occasionally, say to pedestrians, "God Bless if you can Help". I had someone give me $3 after I said that. Then about two minutes later, someone gave me $5. Another $1 and some change. A nice couple bought me a slice of Benny's pizza (pepperoni, yum!).  Several people gave me cash during the hour I was there. After an hour, I took my sign, put it in my bag and walked away.

That hour in Downtown Roanoke I made $37.25 and a piece of giant pizza and a soda.

Peters Creek / 460

This location was a bit intimating because I had never stood in a median before, let along a roadside, but I went out and stood in the middle of the corner where the TitleMax is. Again, I took out my sign and this time I just stood there.

At first nothing. Car after car would go by me and most people wouldn't look at me or they would stop in the left turn lane and pull up just past me. I did have an elderly lady give me $10 and an invite to her church which was really sweet of her. I had a minivan give me $5 in ones and I had a guy in a truck give me $7.  I wish I could have counted the amount of cars that went by me each time the light turned green, but at just about every green light there were at least 5-8 cars rolling through and I'd say that was every 3-4 minutes during my time, honestly I was just too nervous going out there to begin with.

That hour I made $22.65 panhandling.

Airport / Hershberger Exit Ramp 

When I arrived at this spot, there was already someone standing there, so I had to wait basically. The guy with the walker was standing there and people were giving him cash left and right. I parked over at the airport and was able to hang out mostly in the parking lot until he was done. When he did leave I walked right up there and held up my sign.

Most cares and trucks ignored me, while some did give in passing. With the constant influx of cars I made a lot of money during the hour or so that I stood there, bringing in $41.75.

While I was standing in the location however, there were others waiting for me to move so they could take my place. One woman with a book-bag and sweats was standing along the road near the Kroger just watching me and waiting for me to move. As soon as I started walking, she was on the case to get my spot and yup, just like that, she put her bag down and put up her own sign.

The Sad Truth About People Scamming You

You know, it's one thing to really be homeless and down on your luck; it's another to pretend to be homeless to take advantage of everyday citizens like you and me.

Many of us are already on fixed incomes and have a hard enough time keeping with our own lives let alone trying to help others. I get it, some people really do need help and to those I would gladly offer help.

But to those that you see day after day, week after week, into the years of doing the SAME thing and acting as if they are homeless in order to pay for drugs, alcohol or simply a tax free income to live off of, scamming Roanoke in order to benefit themselves will simply not be tolerated.

The truth of the matter is simple.

If you give money to someone on the streets, you are NOT fixing the problem. You are simply encouraging them to stand more and ask for MORE money.

If Roanoke wants to curb the panhandling within our community we need to do the following:

  • Stop giving cash to panhandlers.
  • Educate your friends and neighbors about those that scam and simply want your money for their lifestyle.
  • Send letters to your local leaders here in the Roanoke Valley
  • Use the hashtag #StopRoanokePanhandling in your social media posts

Panhandling is Easy Money; ALL Tax Free

Regardless if you are really in need or not (like the well known woman with her puppy that so many have talked about for years), panhandling is an easy way to make money.

In the three hours that I stood out I made a total of $101.65 or $33.88 per hour!

$101.65 in 3 hours

That's BETTER than MOST people make on average hourly. Annually if you compare that with a person that works full time AND pays taxes that's $65,049.60 or someone that makes an estimated $86,400 before taxes! The numbers you see today can vary vastly on many factors but during this experiment I wanted to see how much one could make.

Now, many panhandlers are not actually homeless, according to a recent article we did, only 2 of the nearly 150 people at the local Rescue Mission admitted to actually panhandling. Many of the panhandlers that do this on a regular basis do it for a habit like drugs or alcohol as shown on several of the Facebook Groups, some do it to pay for a lifestyle they try to hide and often times have a bank account that would make you drool over. Many have mental issues and most have some form of government assistance such as SSI that taxpayers feed into.

Now this is just an estimate of what you COULD bring if in you're really aggressive. Most will make less than this amount I'm sure, but even half of that per day can still bring in a couple of thousand all tax free each month.

Why Does This Matter Anyway? 

To many people, they could care less if someone is standing on a corner begging for money. Well, there are a couple of issues to be contested.

First, its OUR community. Roanoke has always been a small, friendly city where you can raise a family or retire too. In the recent months the city has seen a HUGE uptick in panhandlers. While it not be concerning to you, it is when it comes to having a clean city for tourism, shoppers and commerce and even tied up our police and judicial system for those that are constantly being ticketed and going to court.

According to the Roanoke County Budget office, they have for the 2017-2018 fiscal year an operating budget of $737,238. Broken down to an hourly rate, it cost taxpayers an estimated $383.97 per hour to operate. That cost doesn't include officers, attorney's and other related offices to the court system. Each time a panhandler get a ticket from an officer it takes up their time, not just the courts too. We estimate that a panhandler getting in trouble with law enforcement can cost anywhere from $450-$650 per occurrence depending on factors such as location and involvement of other public departments. My point is that it costs YOU the TAXPAYER, so it should matter.

Second, its morality. Many people will carry a sign stating they are homeless when indeed they are not. Lying in order to get money from those that might be on a limited budget themselves is simply immoral. If you think otherwise, then I suggest that you invite those people to your street and let them stand where you live to panhandle.

Many people are simply duped into believing they are making a difference. Just look at what I was able to accomplish on one Sunday afternoon.

Are ALL panhandlers bad people?


Do people pretend to be homeless or down on their luck to take your money?

Yes, you bet they do!

What did you do with the money you made?

100% of what I made that day went to our Blessing Bag Program

How can I help with that Program? 

There are many ways that you can get involved, click here to learn more.



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